Online shopping in the Netherlands is safe and used by millions of Dutch customers. Find out which internet retailers are most popular with consumers in Holland, which ones offer shopping in English and what charges apply when buying from a foreign webshop…
Products Commonly Purchased Online
According to the Dutch national statistics bureau, CBS, the most common items consumers in the Netherlands purchase online are clothing/sporting goods (52%) and trips/accommodations (47%), followed by event tickets (45%) and household goods/appliances (34%). Other popular merchandise categories for purchasing online are books/periodicals (29%), electronics/computers (28%), groceries/cosmetics (26%) and telecom services (23%).
The single biggest problem Dutch consumers cite about purchasing online is late delivery (24%).
In 2016, consumers in Holland spent €20.16 billion online of which €1.0 billion was in EU web shops located outside the Netherlands. Those orders were predominantly placed with retailers located in Germany (50%), UK (12%), Belgium (8%) and Italy (8%) with the remaining 22% spread across the remaining 23 member states.
In 2017, the amount Dutch consumers spent online rose to €22.5 billion.
EU Digital Single Market
Digital Single Market, a key initiative of the European Commission to grow total online sales in the EU, focuses on removing obstacles that may be hindering a consumer from purchasing goods in an online shop based in another member state.
Two priorities are:
- Banning retailers from using geo-filtering of an IP address to automatically direct a consumer to the retailer’s national webshop for the country where the consumer is based, rather than allowing consumer to comparison shop for a better price if one is being offered by the retailer in a different country.
- Reducing delivery costs by banning surcharges transport companies apply to cross-border shipments (unless the transport company can prove it will incur higher operational costs by delivering the cross-border shipment).
Most Dutch Retail Websites Not Multi-Lingual
For expats living in the Netherlands, the most common problem they face when trying to make an online purchase from a local retailer is language. Very few retailers in Holland offer an English-language option on their website. Most browsers offer a translator app which can be activated to help in such situations. But most only function with web page content that is not secured (i.e. http). Once the checkout process begins, the connection becomes secure (i.e. https), and the translator app will stop working.
English-speaking consumers will often end up ordering retail products from websites in the UK because of the language barrier with Dutch websites. This does not apply for tourism and accommodation services (where the majority of businesses do offer an English-language option on their website).
Most Popular Web Shops with Dutch Consumers
In 2017, the ten biggest online retailers in the Netherlands (based on revenue from internet sales transactions) were:
|#1||BOL.com||€950M||This web shop sells the entire range of consumer products and services, from perfume and jewelry to sporting goods and tools. BOL recently added an option to view the website in English. They’ve utilized their sister division’s numerous locations by allowing customers to have their orders ship to their nearest Albert Heijn store for collection.|
|#2||Coolblue||€615M||Coolblue is wildly popular online retailer of consumer electronics and appliances.|
|#3||wehkamp||€540M||This webshop has been one of the biggest in the Netherlands since the inception of online shopping. It too sells a full range of consumer products including furniture and bedding, computers and electronics, sporting goods, toys and games, makeup and perfume, jewelry and watches|
|#4||Zalando||€530M||This Germany-based internet retailer sells fashion clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and children.|
|#5||Albert Heijn||€400M||The home-delivery division of the Netherlands’ largest supermarket chain. Albert Heijn’s parent company is AHold, which also happens to own BOL.com|
|#6||Amazon||€250M||The world’s largest online company does not have as strong a foothold in the Netherlands since its Dutch website (amazon.nl) only offers digital books. For all other goods, customers shop either Amazon UK or Amazon Germany website (which offers an English-language option plus Amazon Prime memberships to Netherlands residents).|
|#7||H&M||€205M||The Dutch website of the world’s largest fashion brand.|
|#8||Van Dijk Educatie||€197M||The country’s largest seller of school books, supplies and learning aids. Students can find new and secondhand books on the site and can resell books when they are done with them.|
|#9||Media Markt||€190M||The Dutch website of this German-owned electronics and appliances chain, sells computers, mobile phones, TV’s, home entertainment systems, photography equipment and white goods.|
|#10||Nextail (Blokker)||€173M||Blokker Holding set up Nextail in 2014 to manage the web shops of all Blokker retail divisions which at the time included Blokker, Xenos, Leen Bakker, MaresKramer, Bart Smit, Intertoys and Cook & Co. In late 2016, the company announced it would divest most divisions to focus on its core namesake brand.|
Purchasing from Websites Outside the EU
Expats living in the Netherlands can make online purchases from web shops based outside the European Union (with the exception of certain products that are regulated and not allowed to be imported). But be aware that orders with a total invoiced cost (product cost + tax + shipping cost + any insurance costs) greater than €250, will incur import duty charges.
Find out more about Dutch import duties when purchasing from a non-EU web shop.